How to rewire your procrastination habit

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How do you like to procrastinate? Got a preferred method? It’s a habit so we may as well make it a good one.

I spent all day looking for vintage caravans online. I made a very elaborate plan for the interior design, how I would refit it with soundproofing so it could be my new podcast studio that would also double as a DJ booth for the monthly silent discos that I’m going to have alongside the art market in our studio. I planned out the exact check in/out system for the disco headphones, the marketing plan for the monthly events, a list of potential food trucks, thematic playlists and possible studio decor.

I had such a busy day. In my head. Everything that I just mentioned was definitely not on my list of things that are important and I really need to get finished asap.

Why did my overactive imagination decide today was the day? Well probably because it remembered my to-do list and it was running for the hills.

For those of you who believe in the Law of Attraction, you might tell me my day was well spent, thinking up plans and putting them into a manifestation cycle. I, on the other hand, am much more interested in the Law of Action. More doing and less dreaming.

All my life I have told myself that I am a daydreamer by nature but that is only half of the story. I am a daydreamer by habit. I love it, It gives me a kick. It allows me to put things off. I do it often, it is beautiful in my imagination so I go there when I “can’t be bothered” “would rather not” or “can’t seem to focus” It happens a lot. Lucky for me I am also pretty bloody awesome at deep work, hard work, focus…once I get here.

So we spend a lot of time getting down on ourselves about procrastination, am I right? There’s a deadline looming but it is far enough away that you got time for a Netflix binge, a couple of gatherings that you could easily skip, a sudden urge to tidy all of your kitchen draws and a long, hard session of internet window shopping. It is not until the very last minute that your fear of failure kicks your butt into action, you work chaotically on adrenalin and slide into home base just in time telling yourself you will never procrastinate like that again, you will be better prepared next time, you will start way ahead of time. All good advice that you somehow forget the next time a deadline is closing in.

So why do we procrastinate? Maybe it is not such a bad thing.

I just have to let you know, when I Googled “is procrastination good for you” (wishful thinking) under “People also ask” was “Is procrastination a sin?” Oh. Let’s just say there is gonna be some major heat in my future.

I also discovered there is active procrastination and passive procrastination. Active is when you know you are doing something different to what you set out to do, you are actively avoiding mowing the lawn, writing your essay or filming your YouTube video but the thing that you are choosing to do is of value, it is entertaining, rewarding or giving you something. Passive procrastination is when you are completely avoiding the tasks you need to do but the alternative action is providing no value, like you are sitting on your couch doing nothing, scrolling through Facebook, mindlessly scanning Instagram.

This lead me to think about all the distractions we have in our lives that urge us to passively procrastinate. Such an almighty topic, I think I am going to do a whole podcast on how to erase the distractions or at least become hyper-aware of how much they are eating away at our lives.

Can you think of a time when you have been on the procrastination bandwagon recently? Why do you think you were avoiding the more important tasks? Fear of failing? Lack of focus? Not clear on how to start or what to do? Perfectionism? No energy or desire to do the other tasks?

And when you think about yourself procrastinating how does it make you feel? Guilty? Annoyed? Indifferent?

I know many of you have shared that you have a real problem with your procrastination and you wish you didn’t do it so often. Here is how I feel about my procrastination. I couldn’t care less. I know that sounds harsh but I refuse to feel bad about it. When I Googled “is procrastination good for you” I honestly expected to find tons of research to support the need for procrastination, how vital it is to the creative process. I used to get frustrated with myself for daydreaming, I used to wonder why I couldn’t get shit done earlier, why I had to leave it to the last minute and then I came to a few realizations 1. I didn’t need any more guilt or frustration in my thoughts so I had a choice about how I wanted to perceive my procrastination 2. Procrastination was my way of making space and allowing new ideas to come in 3. I generally procrastinated in a way that was active, so I was usually doing something else enjoyable or valuable and that’s not a terrible thing to choose.

But what if you are feeling bad about it? What if you get angry or frustrated at yourself? What if it adds to your anxiety?

Here are some strategies that might work for you if procrastination is not your buddy, they might help you to rewire the habit.

1. Own it and shift it.

Listen to what you say to yourself when you are in avoidance mode. Do you say “ugh, I should be doing that other thing but I would much prefer to do this thing”? Does your inner mean girl come out and shame you? Do you even notice what you are doing?

Try shifting those thoughts or words and declare your procrastination. Say to yourself with absolutely no judgement, ” I am procrastinating” own it.

Then make a decision “I am going to keep procrastinating because I’m enjoying it and I know the consequences” or “I am going to stop procrastinating and focus on the more important task” Take the emotion out of it and choose your behavior.

2. Get an accountability buddy or coach

If you work for yourself or you have a lot of freedom, unless you are wonderfully disciplined, you are likely to procrastinate more because you have no one calling you or emailing you to ask for the work you were supposed to do. Because procrastination is a habit, the more you do it, the more it becomes a part of your daily habits.

Break the cycles by having a check in buddy, ask a friend to help you, hire a coach or publically declare you are working on a task and share deadlines so you feel somewhat accountable. Whatever works for you.

I personally work best with a coa ch, a professional I have paid who keeps me on track, accountable and moving forward. Mammoth tastes become super manageable.

3. Start your day off right

Do a brain dump, have a plan, write it down, embrace clarity, map out some time and space for self-care, daydreaming, distractions and then plan for deep work. You will have a much better chance at focusing if you have a plan, even a rough one.

4. Minimise distractions

Can I get an amen? Again, this could be a whole podcast series of it’s own. If any of your devices ring, ding, ping, buzz or murmur constantly, switching off all notifications is a really good start or getting those devices far away from you anytime you need to do any important tasks…the first step to minimizing distractions.

5. Forgive yourself

Despite what that article on Google said, procrastination is not a sin. It is a habit. You need to forgive yourself. We are creatures of habit and we need to be kinder to ourselves, focus on what is valuable and not add any self-hate to the mix.

6. Catch yourself at the first step

How easy is it, especially if you are on the internet, to do a quick Google search for something like “vintage caravans” with the intention of just having a “quick look” and then finding yourself an hour, 3 Facebook groups, 10 Craiglists listings and 100 Pinterest pins deep. Oh so very easy. And often you won’t even remember what started it all, you didn’t even feel the first trigger, it was just a mindless flick of your brain switch away from the task you were supposed to be focussing on.

Which one of those strategies sound like they might take some of the procrastination pain away for you?

Just so you know, two of the caravans I wanted are already gone and I’m waiting to hear back about the other one. Procrastination is not always bad and I refuse to believe I’m going to hell for my extreme daydreaming.

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